UPDATED 22:06 EDT / NOVEMBER 14 2019


Lookalike scam domains surge ahead of the holiday shopping season

Cybersecurity firm Venafi Inc. is warning about an explosion in scam sites using lookalike domains to target shoppers in the lead-up to this year’s holiday shopping season.

Security researchers at the firm said Tuesday they found more than 100,000 lookalike domains, sites that use a domain name very similar to legitimate sites, in an attempt to trick consumers into thinking they’re on the legitimate site. Worse still, many of the fake sites with lookalike domains included security certificates as well, further tricking consumers into thinking the sites were legitimate.

The researchers analyzed suspicious domains targeting 20 major retailers in the U.S. and the U.K., with one of the top U.S. retailers alone having more than 49,500 lookalike domains targeting its customers. The research found that there are in excess of 400% more lookalike domains targeting major retailers than legitimate sites and six times more lookalike domains than valid domains among the top 20 online U.K. retailers.

Of the many lookalike domains with certificates, 60% were found to be using free certificates issued by Let’s Encrypt, a certificate authority.

Although retailers themselves cannot be blamed for scam sites trying to trick their customers, the researchers did note that they can take steps to counter the fake sites. Suggested actions include searching for and reporting suspicious domains to Google Safe Browsing and by adding Certificate Authority Authorization to the DNS records of their domains and

“We continue to see rampant growth in the number of malicious, look-alike domains used in predatory phishing attacks,” Jing Xie, senior threat intelligence researcher at Venafi, said in a statement. “This is a result of the push to encrypt more and potentially all web traffic, a trend that generally improves security for users but inadvertently introduces a new challenge to existing methods of phishing detection. Most businesses and many retailers don’t have the updated technology in place to find these malicious sites and remove them to protect their customers.”

Photo: Pxhere

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